Skilled migration program tightened



Mr Metcalfe said Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has shifted away from her predecessor’s embrace of a ‘big Australia’ toward ‘balanced’ sustainable population growth, had underlined the importance of skilled migration.

Ms Gillard said on the weekend she does not want to see businesses held back because they can’t access the skilled workers they need.

But she also doesn’t want to see areas of Australia suffering high youth unemployment because there are no jobs for local workers.

Treasury earlier this year forecast Australia’s population to reach 35.9 million by 2050, from a current 22 million, saying immigration would be a big contributor.

Meanwhile, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told the summit population growth was ‘getting out of hand’.

‘Population growth cannot be a lazy substitute for participation and productivity in our economy,’ he said.

‘It needs to be brought under control and there needs to be policies to keep the population under control.

‘The prime minister must now answer her own question.

‘How many Australians will there be under Labor’s policies, what will be the immigration intake under her policies and where will she make the cuts?’

However, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said there was room for growth in the nation’s most populous state, particularly in regional centres.

But Sydney’s population was set to continue to grow no matter what.

‘Even if we stopped all movement into Sydney, there will still be population increases of some 70 per cent,’ Ms Keneally told reporters in Sydney.

‘For Sydney, we do join with the prime minister with that desire to have sustainable cities.’

In its 2010/11 budget, the government said the size of the migration program would be maintained in the new financial year at 168,700 places.

But the mix would change with increases to skilled migration and reductions to family migration.

Earlier on Monday, sociologist Katharine Betts told the population summit the level of migration had little impact on the average age of the population.

‘Even large migrant intakes don’t make much of a difference to the average age of the population at all,’ said Dr Betts, who is associate professor of sociology at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology.

However, she also noted a recent Australian survey of social attitudes had found 72 per cent of Australians thought the country did not need more migrants.